Press Release

Three Marshall Center Employees Chosen for NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program

By SpaceRef Editor
July 28, 2008
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Elaine Flowers Duncan, Kimberly Sanland Robinson and Virginia Cook Tickles, all employees at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, are going back to school this year — only this time, they will be teachers instead of students.

Duncan, a lead flight systems engineer in the Mission Operations Laboratory; Robinson, a project integration manager in Ares Projects’ Flight and Integrated Test Office; and Tickles, a cost engineer in the Engineering Cost Office of the Office of Strategic Analysis and Communications, have been selected for the NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program. Beginning in August, each will teach classes, emphasizing the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers — known as STEM — at selected minority institutions and engage in a comprehensive professional development program.

The fellowship program, founded in 1997 and administered by the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corporation, is designed to enhance professional development of NASA employees. Also, for institutions serving minorities, the program helps increase their capability to participate in NASA’s research and development programs. The program continues the Marshall Center’s long tradition of partnering with scientists, engineers, scholars and researchers at key institutions in Alabama and throughout the nation to promote education and expand STEM disciplines.

Those selected to participate in the annual, highly competitive process are full-time, permanent NASA civil servants, who hold a master’s degree in a STEM field and are recommended by their NASA center director, branch chief or directorate lead.

Duncan started her NASA career in 1980 as a flight systems and operation integration engineer at the Marshall Center. Since 2006, she has supported the design, development, test and evaluation activities for the Orion Project Vehicle Operations Integration Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The Orion crew capsule, which will be launched by 2020 on the Ares I rocket, is designed to carry crew and cargo to the International Space Station. The Ares I and Ares V rockets, currently under development at Marshall, are part of the Constellation Program to send human explorers back to the moon, and then onward to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

As part of her fellowship at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Duncan will be involved in the development of a new materiel engineering graduate program in the School of Engineering & Technology and teach classes in project life cycle and product assurance. She also will support NASA’s Office of the Chief Engineer by providing initiatives to improve NASA’s systems engineering capabilities.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Alabama State University in Montgomery in 1976 and a master’s degree in systems engineering from Howard University in Washington in 1980.

Robinson joined NASA in 1989 as a project engineer at the Marshall Center. Since 2005, she has helped lead the overall management and development of the Ares I-X test flight project and currently provides technical leadership to a project integration team responsible for the integrated master schedule, risk assessment and mitigation planning, configuration and data management, reporting and other duties for the Ares I-X mission. The Ares I-X, a test flight for the Ares I rocket, is scheduled for April 2009.

Robinson will conduct her fellowship at Oakwood University in Huntsville, teaching operations management in the Department of Business and Information Systems.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., in 1989 and a master’s degree in engineering management and systems engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1999.

Tickles started her NASA career in 1989 as a propulsion systems engineer at the Marshall Center. Since 2004, she has performed cost estimating and analysis for conceptual launch vehicles, using cost models to predict the cost of space hardware.

Tickles will teach cost estimating and analysis for both undergraduate and graduate programs during her concurrent fellowships at Alabama A&M and Tennessee State University at Nashville. She also will develop and implement a cost-estimating capability for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Conservation Research Center in Jackson, Miss.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala., in 1985, and a master’s degree in systems management from the Redstone Arsenal, Ala., campus of the Florida Institute of Technology in 1999. She earned a doctorate in urban higher education from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., in 2006.

For more information about the NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.